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Google's Android OS Goes Open Source

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 2 comments

Sorry, C-3PO isn’t available for reprogramming. It’s only Google and its just-launched cell phone, now open-sourced for your hacking pleasure.

As this blog by Google software engineer Dave Bort dictates, today is a big day for Android. Apparently, the development team has officially kicked off the Linux-based Android Open Source Project, inviting the open-source community to download, investigate, and create applications of utmost wonder. On the other hand, this also allows hackers in the mobile phone’s innards like inviting vampires into the home. Still, Bort seems optimistic and partly giddy from the initial release. And rightfully so : with the release of the tools, anyone can contribute to Android and influence its direction.

"Android is not a single piece of hardware ; it’s a complete, end-to-end software platform that can be adapted to work on any number of hardware configurations. Everything is there, from the bootloader all the way up to the applications. And with an Android device already on the market, it has proven that it has what it takes to truly compete in the mobile arena."

He goes on to say Android has a lot to offer even for those not planning to ship a mobile device, that the Android serves as a great source material for virtual machine research. The phone even features an out-of-the-box embedded Linux solution all of which is available through the Android Open source Project along with graphics libraries, media codecs, WebKit, SQLite and many more. The source code also features Google’s Dalvik virtual machine and Java-based middleware layer.

Curious minds and interested developers alike can download and use the source code for free, as the software falls under the Apache GPU license (free to use but developers don’t have to release the resulting product’s source code). But be warned : the 2.1GB package requires 6GB of drive space to install. Apparently, Ubunti is the ideal coding environment although Mac software can be used as well.

However, it’s no surprise that the announcement comes the day before T-Mobile’s G1 goes on sale, the first Android-operated phone. Starting at $179 USD, the G1 smartphone features many of the goodies found on Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry touchscreen phones including Wi-Fi, high-speed web browsing, instant messaging and more. Google has made it no secret that it wants to make the Android operating system standard on all smartphones much like the Windows platform on all PCs. Of course, that will happen when hell freezes over.

"This is an exciting time for Android, and we’re just getting started," said Bort. "It takes a lot of work to keep up with the changes in the mobile industry. But we want to do more than just keep up ; we want to lead the way, to try things out, to add the new features that everyone else is scrambling to keep up with. But we can’t do it without your help. What will you do with Android ?"

There’s no doubt that an Android-operated smartphone is not only intriguing, but a breath of fresh air to developers and consumers. As T-Mobile’s G1 serving as android’s flagship, it will be interesting to see what becomes of Google’s operating system in the months ahead, and what developers can do with the platform to make smartphone use an awesome experience. Then again, open-source can also lead to potential danger.

To download the SDK, start here.

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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 23 October 2008 23:18
    "On the other hand, this also allows hackers in the mobile phone’s innards like inviting vampires into the home."

    Isn't this just scare mongering? Linux is open source, yet it is claimed to be the safest OS around. If open source equates to insecure then Tom's should be campaigning for an end to all open source software, just because it's dangerous.

    Or is this a case of journalistic sensationalism? A story isn't good enough if it doesn't carry some kind of threat to the general public. Maybe it's a Halloween mindset.

    Personally, I am excited to see what comes of Android. I think it has the potential to bring great improvements to the smartphone community, and offers consumers & manufacturers a solid new choice.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 24 October 2008 03:40
    I agree, open source in my opinion is safer due to the fact everyone can see the code. If there are flaws in it, they are found by some hacker (the good kind) and fixed. Closed source software can have huge security holes in it that are never found (by the right people) but allow hackers (the bad kind) in to do what they please.

    Open source is a safe thing. Public key encryption is what keeps everyone's credit cards and passwords safe on the internet, it is the biggest open source algorithm out there. Even half the key is open to everyone!

    "Google has made it no secret that it wants to make the Android operating system standard on all smartphones much like the Windows platform on all PCs. Of course, that will happen when hell freezes over."

    Well I wouldn't mind hell to freeze over as well..